CROSSLAKE - NBC's trademark "Must See TV" could be a lot harder to view in the Crosslake area in the new year.
Crosslake Communications is continuing television cable programming negotiations for 2006 but KARE 11 from the Twin Cities, previously a "no charge" channel that people could pick up for free on an antenna, is seeking to charge cable companies to carry the NBC affiliate in the future.
Dennis Leaser, Crosslake Communications general manager, said the Federal Communications Commission required the cable station to carry a bundle of what are considered local stations from the Twin Cities representing ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the WB. The broadcast stations were carried at no charge. Now, KARE 11 is asking to be paid and that has ramifications for the other four stations.
Leaser said anything KARE 11 asks for will be multiplied by four as the other stations will have to be paid the same amount according to a contract.
Crosslake Communications has about 2,000 cable television customers. The basic cable package is $34 per month for 40 stations. Leaser said paying KARE 11 would increase the cost about 25 cents per household customer and that would increase by another $1 counting the four other stations. That would add up to $30,000 a year for 2,000 customers paying an additional $1.25 per month.
"For a small company, that's quite a bit of money in a year," Leaser said. "For something that's free across the air, that's a little stiff."
Leaser said KARE 11 is not proposing fewer commercials, which could make the charge more acceptable. And FCC designations for market areas prevent cable companies from getting an NBC station from somewhere else like Duluth.
"It takes out our ability to negotiate," Leaser said.
Crosslake Communications hired an attorney from its National Cable Association to help in negotiations, which could have implications for other cable companies as well. Leaser is sending a letter to KARE 11 offering to continue to carry the station at no charge. If the situation is not resolved, Crosslake Communications cable customers could be without any NBC station as of Jan. 1.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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